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UPDATE: Get to Know a Coaching Candidate: Steve Prohm

Is the native son the best fit for the Tide?

Ohio State v Iowa State Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

TL; DR: Yesterday we got to know one of the leading candidates for ‘Bama baskeball’s vacant job, Thad Matta. Rumors were that Matta was on campus, among other details. After that meeting, Greg Byrne had a press conference ticking off his wish list for a new coach. That conference and Byrne’s requirements for the job were detailed in today’s Jumbo Package. Enigmatically, after the press conference, Byrne hopped on a private jet — not the University’s jet, presumably to Ames to meet the man many consider to be the other leading candidate, Iowa State’s Steve Prohm.
Prohm is a graduate of the University of Alabama and will enjoy support from a segment of older fans and boosters. He is known as an energetic recruiter — and if you’ve ever been to North Central Iowa, you’ll know what a difficult job that is. He resume does have a few ups-and-downs though, notably, his offense no-shows at times and can be bullied by more physical opponents, to say nothing of inconsistency in the stretch run of this season. But, when his ‘Clones get hot, they can do special things, as witnessed by his B12 Championship this season

Let’s meet Steve Prohm

UPDATE: You can still read below we need the #clicks, after all. But about 15 minutes ago, Iowa State and Prohm came to terms on an extension.

It’s nice to help a fellow alum out like that.

Now, the real fear that Bama fans have to have, that sense of deja vu arising out of Gregg Marshall, is that Alabama’s interest racks up a lot of raises and extensions for some top-choice candidates, as the Tide is forced to move on to its less preferred guys.


Steve Prohm was born in Virginia before his family moving to North Georgia, where he played basketball for several years. He then began his education and playing career at tiny liberal arts DIII Oglethorpe in Atlanta (having had a cousin that went there, I can assure you sports just isn’t a thing there.) But, Prohm lasted less than a year before transferring to the University of Alabama, where he landed on the staff of Alabama’s David Hobbs as a student assistant / trainer. Straight out of college, Prohm was able to enter the coaching ranks fairly quickly, first at Centenary with Billy Kennedy, then SELU, and finally later as an assistant at Murray State — again with Billy Kennedy.

Following Kennedy’s departure with the Racers in 2011, Prohm got his first shot at a head coaching job. His career was shot out of a cannon, to be honest. In his debut season, Murray State went 31-2, ripped through the OVC with a 15-1 record and won the conference tourney. As a 12-seed, the Racers won just their third tournament game ever, before bowing out to 3-seed Marquette. Unfortunately, that would be the best season at MSU for Prohm. Over the next three years, his teams did not make another NCAA appearance, losing the conference tournament every season, failing to earn an at-large. And, perhaps most disappointingly (or ominously), Murray missed postseason play entirely the year after his 31-2 season.

After a fourth season at Murray State, where the Racers went undefeated in OVC play (and then lost the conference tourney...again) Prohm was tapped to take over the Iowa State Cyclones when Fred Hoiberg left Ames to chase NBA dollars.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State

It is from his Big 12 work that Prohm is most recognizable to casual fans. But, his tenure at Iowa State has been decidedly up-and-down, and should give fans and administrators pause.

The Cyclones made the NCAA tournament three of his four years at ISU. But, each appearance has resulted in diminished results: Sweet 16, Round 2, First Round exits. Additionally, while his Cyclones won the Big 12 tournament championship this season, the Cyclones have never finished higher than T-2nd in the Big 12, while posting finishes of 5th (twice) and 10th once. And, the Cyclones have never lost fewer than 11 games in his tenure (12, 11, 18, 11)

Prohm’s preferred style — a defensive grind, hi-low post game, seems anachronistic in an age where the emphasis is on athletic shooters with multiple ball-handlers and plenty of ball movement. His teams can be shutdown and shut out — it is not uncommon to see Prohm’s losses scored in the upper 40s/low 50s.

Another knock on Prohm is that for all of his reported skills as a recruiter, his Cyclones’ teams have never finished ranked higher than 28th — and have been as low as 61st. Even grading on an Ames curve, a Big 12 program with regular tourney aspirations should be attracting more players. But, that raises the converse point: that his teams are able to flirt with 20 wins despite not having much talent is likely a good indicator of his overall quality.

Money is not an issue at all — Alabama could easily give him a 50% raise over his $2m annual Cyclone deal. And, he is still quite young, just 44. So perhaps he can adjust to the increasingly uptempo modern game. But, if this year’s results are any indication — where the Cyclones finished 32nd in defensive efficiency, but got shelled by uptempo teams, then perhaps not. The tutelage of Billy Kennedy and David Hobbs are definitely stamped upon his coaching style.

Bottom Line:

I went into this without any preconceptions or rooting interests...and walked away very underwhelmed, to be honest. Per several Xs and Os pieces from Iowa State authors, it is clear that Prohm’s in-game management leaves something to be desired, as does the tempo of his teams. The troubling habit of collapsing down the season’s stretch and then bowing out of conference and postseason tournaments (even with good teams) are giant red flags, to say nothing of mediocre recruiting.

I can’t sugarcoat this one: the bland offering on the court, the inability to attract star power to the roster, the postseason swoons, and the in-game management seemingly combines the deficits of both Avery Johnson and Anthony Grant into one package. While he does run a squeaky clean program, very little else checks off any boxes that would enthuse me. You have to think if it were not for his Alabama degree, Prohm’s name would not be mentioned in connection with this opening as a leading candidate, and particularly not with so many up-and-comers out there with far more dynamic styles of play just begging for promotions.

I would absolutely be willing to give him a shot and take Prohm on own his terms and for what he does at Alabama. But the SEC is not easier than the Big 12, and I would enter this relationship holding my breath. It just seems like we’ve read this same script for the last decade and would be in the exact same situation three of four years down the road.

Past results are indicative of future results.